By Rohan A T

Blending Vocational Education with Mainstream Education

  • Asha Subramanian, Chief Human Resource Officer, Subex Ltd, in an exclusive interview with Asia Education Review magazine, shares her insights on the dearth of quality talent in the Indian IT industry and how new graduates can equip themselves for the changing industry expectations.  

    Lack of skilled candidates has now become a major concern for hiring managers. What are your views about the current higher education scenario in India and the major gaps that you see in this domain?  

    Collaboration is the key. With companies looking for specialized roles, both, the education systems as well as corporates need to collaborate together to co-create content that helps in developing skilled candidates. Internship programs need to be looked at with a more focused lens. This cannot be a check-in-the-box program. It is important to find out how vocational education can be blended with mainstream education in order to bridge the gap. There should be collaboration between universities and companies on experiential learning, coaching, industry apprenticeship in UG courses and similar initiatives and programmes.

    Automation in the recruitment process has taken off in a big way. Companies have started using AI and analytical tools in recruiting and hiring to improve efficiencies. ATS is a great example of leveraging AI and ML to free up recruiter’s bandwidth for more strategic work. This will be a game changer, and hence for freshers to get the opportunity for even a conversation with corporates, they have to display specific skills in their profiles.

    With more businesses automating their workflow, tasks that cannot be automated have become more crucial for their development. Taking this into consideration, how do you view the increasing importance of soft skills in the industry?   

    With the proliferation of automation and digitization, soft skills are transforming into power skills. With the pandemic and remote/hybrid workplace scenarios, programs have to be developed holistically. 

    When it comes to us, the learning paths for our new hires are always a combination of technology and power skills. Our fresher training programs are gamified – usually with a theme. In an effort to provide an ecosystem which increases their awareness, we also have master classes, mentoring programmes and coaching sessions with in-house experts. We proudly share success stories of our value demonstrations and how these power skills helped in making an impact. We expose them to certain situations through role-play and real time scenarios to understand how they are applying these skills. Our rewards and recognition framework also promotes and encourages freshers to focus on the importance of power skills. Apart from that, dedicated programs to develop first time managers to prepare them for leadership roles are also sewn into the overall career development plans.

    Businesses are currently using learning management systems to evaluate the performance of employees and offer them necessary training. In your opinion, what is the most effective way to ensure employee training? 

    It is important to let employees know what skills they need, but it is more important to highlight why they need those skills. Learning management systems are essential in today’s world. But using them just to track and assign trainings is not enough anymore. They need to be a part of the ecosystem that helps in role building and role development. An L&D teams’ key responsibility is to create an ecosystem which enables employees to be owners of their learning goals, with direction and guidance from managers.

    We have our LMS integrated with our skill matrix system which in turn is directly related to the career architecture of each employee. Our employees are fully aware of the skills they need to have and at what levels to optimally perform in their roles as well as to grow in their careers. Team members can rate themselves and if a skill gap is identified by the manager, he/she can enroll their team member(s) into a program at the click of a button. We have automated the entire process of enrolment, training and assessment via our LMS.

    Online learning platforms have grown in popularity over the last couple of years. What are your views on the online certification courses offered by these platforms and its impact in improving the employability of students?    

    Online learning platforms are fantastic. They are helping bridge some of the gaps that organizations are looking for from students. Most of them are designed and delivered by experts. They are frequently updated, and relevancy is ensured. Being certified is an added advantage from an employability standpoint; and for an individual it adds to the pride quotient. The only flip side is that the well-known ones are expensive and are not affordable by everyone. 

    The gig worker community is growing in India. In your opinion, what are some of the essential things a student should know before choosing freelancing as their career option?

    Gig worker community is the future. Something new in the morning is getting old in the evening. In this information and influencer-led world, the sky is the limit. It will be good for students to do research before deciding freelancing as a career option. They need to be aware of not just the subject they choose, but a few branches around that. They should be aware of the pros and cons. And most importantly, they ought to understand their style of working.